If Charlie Haden's résumé listed only his stint as bassist for Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking free-jazz quartet, his place in music history would already be guaranteed. But the rock-solid timekeeper has also held down the bottom for an illustrious roll call of jazzers, both avant-garde (Alice Coltrane and Keith Jarrett) and traditional (Jim Hall and Lee Konitz), not to mention a few adventurous rock figures (Rickie Lee Jones and Beck).To Haden's credit, his accomplishments as a bandleader and composer have come to be even more respected than his work as a sideman. His noirish post-bop group Quartet West has been making straight-ahead jazz since the mid-1980s, while his left-leaning, big-band collaboration with pianist Carla Bley, the Liberation Music Orchestra, has recorded several noted albums during its sporadic existence. The political slant of this large-scale ensemble -- its eponymous 1970 debut commented on the Spanish Civil War and Vietnam, and 1982's Ballad of the Fallen included revolutionary songs from El Salvador and Chile -- might seem at odds with the focus of Haden's latest album, American Dreams. But the record celebrates our nation in a fashion far removed from the feverish wartime patriotism one might expect.
Backed by the lush strings of a 20-piece orchestra, the bassist and a talented foursome featuring renowned saxophonist Michael Brecker navigate a varied selection of Haden originals and well-known tunes ranging from "America the Beautiful" to Coleman's "Bird Food" to, strangely enough, "It Might Be You" from the Tootsie soundtrack. Dedicated by Haden to "our children and our future," the recording's pastoral visions pay tribute to the promise of the ideals America was built upon. For this SFJAZZ Spring Season concert, Haden and Brecker perform songs with Quartet West pianist Alan Broadbent (who did some of the string arrangements on the album), drummer Rodney Green, and the 34-piece San Domenico School Virtuoso Program Orchestra da Camera. Hear them at 8 p.m. at the Masonic Auditorium, 1111 California (at Taylor), S.F. Tickets are $24-52; call 776-1999 or visit www.sfjazz.org. -- Dave Pehling
Erling Wold is nothing if not versatile. The composer casts his net wide in search of inspiration, and the proof is in his eclectic operas, which have concerned the murky dreams of an 11-year-old (A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil) and William Burroughs' libido (Queer). His latest work, Sub Pontio Pilato, ponders the suicide and redemption of Pontius Pilate, the Roman bureaucrat who sentenced Christ to death. Subject matter aside, it's Wold's minimalist compositions and electronic experiments that make him one to watch. Shows start at 8 p.m. at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St. (at Shotwell), S.F. Tickets are $20; call 863-9834. -- Lisa Hom
What a Drag
Experimental Performance Institute presents a terrifying-sounding rock-theater double feature -- terrifying as in good. Round 1 is Drag Attack!!!, set in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco where only the wigs survive, thanks to the drunken bumbling of a 137-year-old Barbara Bush. Fortunately, it's all-girl band Stink 69 to the rescue! Round 2 is Cave In Cave Out, a non-narrative exercise in Barbarella-ism, video montage, and creative walkie-talkie use. Oh, for the love of furry leg warmers. The shows start at 8 at the New College of California Theater, 777 Valencia (at 19th Street), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 437-3487 or visit www.epiarts.org. -- Hiya Swanhuyser
Love at First Sight
Who doesn't have something to say about love? Certainly not writer and choreographer Linda Carr. She's got a mouthful to share in 28 very short scenes about love, a collection of dance-theater vignettes that combines tales of Carr's personal search for the "Big Relationship" with those of her ensemble cast. Pieces are, as the title suggests, brief -- like most romances. Carr says the project looks at "the need/desire/hope that love will save the day." We say, "Keep dreaming." Show time is 8 p.m. (through April 26) at Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa (at Florida), S.F. Tickets are $15; call 621-7978 or visit www.28shortscenes.com. -- Lisa Hom